Essex

Quaint and Quirky Holiday Celebrations for New Jersey Families

We all have our favorite family holiday traditions, whether it’s viewing an annual light display, cutting down a fresh Christmas tree, or having breakfast with Santa. All good stuff, to be sure. But if you’re looking to shake things up this year, try an experience you won't find at your local mega-mall.

One option is to go small: New Jersey’s charming small towns play host to a variety of quaint holiday happenings, from Dickens carolers to Christmas Candlelight House Tours.

If you're after something truly unique, NJ has plenty of that, too. You can celebrate Christmas Underwater at Adventure Aquarium, get festive with the furry residents of Bluebird Farm Alpacas, or explore an animated wonderland at the Christmas Ice Caverns.

Who knows? One of these activities might become your family’s new holiday favorite. Check out our roundup below for some great small-town and off-the-beaten-path fun. For more ways to celebrate the festive holiday season, visit our Holiday Fun Guide.

Best Places To Take Pictures with Santa in New Jersey

Santa Claus is coming to town, and he's ready for his close-up. From simple setups to elaborate events, there's no shortage of opportunities for your little elves to pose with the big guy. We've rounded up our favorites, and there's something for every budget. Want more QT with jolly St. Nick? Book a breakfast with Santa. And for even more seasonal activities, check out our Holiday Fun Guide.

Best Holiday Light Displays in New Jersey

It may be hard to believe, but Christmas is right around the corner, which means holiday shows, visiting Santa, snowy sleigh rides, and of course, checking out the amazing light displays throughout the state. These sparkling spectacles—some of which feature more than a million lights—are sure to impress even the grinchiest member of your family. So bundle up the kids and head out to one of these illuminating shows soon! And of course, you can find even more ways to be merry in the Mommy Poppins Holiday Fun Guide.

The Newark Museum: Out-of-This-World Fun for NJ Kids and Families

Nestled in the heart of downtown Newark’s Art District, 10 miles from New York City, is New Jersey's largest museum. The Newark Museum, established in 1909, is an art and science center that truly has something for everybody. I recently visited with my 5-year-old daughter to see a show at the planetarium, and I was impressed—not only is the planetarium perfect for young kids, but the museum offers tons of other family-friendly programs as well.

If you're looking for indoor activities for the winter ahead, put the Newark Museum on your to-do list. Read on for more about this Essex County gem.

A Dozen Must-Do Holiday Activities for New Jersey Kids

There are five weekends from December 1 to January 1, and hundreds of ways to fill them. Overwhelmed by the possibilities? If you’re looking for fun activities the kids will love that don’t cost an arm and a leg, look no further than our list of the best family outings worth adding to your busy December to-do list. From holiday light shows to breakfast with Santa, we’ve compiled 12 great memory-making activities for this month.

Check out our full calendar of events and our holiday guide for more options.

New Grammy Museum in NJ Offers Hands-on Musical Fun for Kids

Rocking out is encouraged at the new GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Strutting onstage, playing electronic instruments, and singing karaoke-style are part of the fun at this new museum celebrating pop music's biggest stars, including many with New Jersey roots. An electronic jam session may be the coolest way for kids to spend a rainy day

Restaurants Open for Thanksgiving Dinner in New Jersey

Not feeling up to hosting Thanksgiving this year? Here's something to be thankful for: There are plenty of restaurants open throughout the state on Thanksgiving Day. Having your holiday out means that you can sit back and enjoy the party—and you won't have to wash a single dish.

We've chosen 20 of New Jersey's best spots to enjoy a holiday feast. Call ahead for a reservation, and then use your extra time to plan some fall fun with the family, or try out one of these Thanksgiving crafts. Happy Thanksgiving!

Best Trick-or-Treating Neighborhoods in New Jersey

Halloween is nearly here, and in several New Jersey neighborhoods the locals are thinking, “Bring it on!” These Halloween-obsessed towns deck out their homes every year with fabulous decorations that delight trick-or-treaters big and small. Others turn their streets into festive Halloween block parties.

Where can you join in the fun near your home? We’ve compiled a list of more than 30 towns and neighborhoods that are worth a visit. Those who make the trip can expect lots of treats—not to mention some prime photo ops.

Find more fun in our New Jersey Halloween Guide, including pumpkin patches and the best FREE Halloween events for local kids.

Disney on Ice Brings Moana and Elsa Show to NYC Metro Area

A Disney on Ice show skates into the greater New York City area this November with some of the entertainment company's most popular female characters. This Dare to Dream production features Moana for the first time, but also Belle of Beauty and the Beast, Elsa and Anna of Frozen fame, and plenty more princesses.

The family show kicks off in the metro region at the Prudential Center in Newark, November 1-5. It then plays Barclays Center in Brooklyn, November 9-12, and finally at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, November 15-November 26.

Mini Dickens Village Opens in Maplewood for Holidays

There’s something about miniature things that draws the eye of both kids and grown-ups. Perhaps that’s why parents, toddlers and preteens alike are found peering into the windows of the 10 mini houses that make up the annual Dickens Village hosted in downtown Maplewood, New Jersey each holiday season for more than 50 years.

Each of the 10 houses, measuring over 6-feet tall, are decorated with holiday scenes from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and are lit with pretty candles and bedecked in wreaths and other seasonal décor.

You’ll find faux fireplaces, a nutcracker, Santa, of course, and an entire house filled with vintage children’s toys. The windows are low enough for even my 1-year-old to look into. I was surprised by how enthralled he and his preschool sister were with the whole thing. Several preteens zipped through the village with us, oohing and ahhing over the scene: “My favorite is the candy cane one! You can fit a bed in here!”

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